The Current War
For a movie about the competition between industrial-era engineers, The Current War is surprisingly suspenseful and enthralling. While the at-times patchy plot and historical focus may not appeal to all viewers, the personal drama, stunning cinematography and all-around entertainment make the film well-rounded and widely appealing.
The picture features Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult as Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla, respectively, in addition to Tuppence Middleton as Mary Stillwell Edison and Tom Holland as Samuel Insull, Edison’s secretary. The acting is generally solid, with convincing performances across the board. Cumberbatch, in particular, is the perfect actor to convey the complexity of Thomas Edison; the pithy writing of Michael Mitnick gives the star plenty of space to use expression and intonation to add depth to his character.
In addition to the gripping acting and the engrossing script, the film has lovely scoring and cinematography. Compositions by Hauschka and Dustin O’Halloran create congruency and partially make up for the somewhat confusing narrative. By emphasising the most vital parts of the story, the score helps the viewer follow the frequent twists and turns. The beautiful camerawork, however, is what truly stands out. Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, also noted for his work on It (2017), has done a marvellous job with the variety of shots and styles. Long, sweeping segments of grandiose scenery and special effects create awe and highlight magnificent innovations; clever transitions draw the viewers’ eyes fluidly through scene changes.
Though the movie was gorgeously filmed and constructed, there are moments when the storyline is confusing. The feature could have benefited from a more thorough explanation of the characters’ stories; those unfamiliar with industrial barons Edison, Westinghouse and JP Morgan may become bemused. Furthermore, while the wrongdoings and successes of Westinghouse and Edison are depicted in earnest, the former, in particular, seems to jump jauntily up and down the moral spectrum. A more defined progression from likeability to disenchantment would be easier to follow. In addition, topics such as death, loyalty and parenthood would benefit from more pointed exploration.
Despite plot difficulties, overall, The Current War is electrifying (pun intended). Humour (“Never gonna be anything named ‘Tesla’ ever again”), creativity and passion make for an entertaining and intriguing movie. Budding innovators, avid historians and anyone wishing to learn a little more about the dramatic race to build America’s electrical infrastructure would enjoy this film.
The Current War is released nationwide on 26th July 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Current War here: